Why We Tell the Story Series

Why We Tell The Story: In Conversation with Alex Hackitt-Anwyl

Alex Hackitt-Anwyl grew up in Nuneaton and now lives in South London. FemFringe, which she founded, recently enjoyed a successful run at the Vaults Festival in Waterloo, London and will be returning to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. We caught up for a good long chat about the show, the importance of women in the driving seats and what’s next for her.

Name: Alex Hackitt-Anwyl

Role: Theatre Producer

Favourite Show/Play: Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead / Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Favourite Part About the Theatre: The exact moment when the curtain goes up or the lights go down and there is a palpable shift in the atmosphere.

The first thing you notice when you meet Alex is her warm and kind spirit. We first met around seven years ago on a trip organised by York Theatregoers Society and she hasn’t changed since. As we order drinks, she generously offers to get my hot chocolate and we start by discussing all the recent shows we’ve seen. We have a semi-heated debate about the recent production of Hadestown and it’s clear that we share the same enthusiasm for theatre, but she’s more partial to plays.

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When I saw FemFringe, I was blown away. As I mention this, Alex confesses that a technical glitch meant it wasn’t the best show of the two nights. But the minor glitch was definitely not what I took away. I was impressed by the diverse range of acts we were treated to; there were comedic performances, musical sketches and even a segment which gave us a bit of history lesson. Although each act only gave a seven-minute excerpt, they were thoroughly engaging and entertaining.

I was most impressed by FemFringe’s dedication to showcase female orientated performances. On the free programme, we are reminded that 65% of audiences are female yet women only represent 36% of directors and 28% of writers. This platform seeks to change this by not only hosting shows with women in performing roles but also behind the scenes, in the creative roles and in the technical ones too. What’s even more fantastic is that the platform has created a network of support for the people involved and producers have reached out to some of the acts since.

I left feeling very inspired. We all know that there is a lack of women in theatre, but it doesn’t feel like much is being done about it. But despite limited resources, Alex and the production team have sought to create a platform which works to turn the dials on female representation in the arts.

 

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When I ask what inspired the creation of FemFringe, she talks with the passion and subtle confidence of someone who has been in the business for years. She explains “the platform idea itself came about at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year. After a large cancellation, there was a large empty space ready to be used.” The venue wanted to offer the space to something that promoted inclusion and the open Fringe agenda and thus FemFringe was born. I hear that the first night was so successful that it wasn’t physically possible to squeeze in any more people without getting in trouble with Health and Safety.

Following their success at the Fringe Festival, they secured a place at the Vaults Festival in London. To accommodate the range of acts, the show was split in two: the first night was dedicated to comedy; and the second for theatre. I caught it on the last of its two nights and it was sold out in one of the largest venues there. And it’s clear that this isn’t something for a niche audience as the show was well attended by men and women alike.

We discuss the issue of female representation in the arts in general and she offers her views; “I think the time you have an all-female production team and no one bats an eye lid. That’s when you know you’ve achieved the end goal. I think it’s more than just getting women on the table, they need to be in roles where they can have a real vocal influence and be in the driving seat. When there’s change at the top, that’s when you’ll start to see a difference [in representation].”

The role of the producer has always fascinated me for a variety of reasons. I find it’s a seemingly impossible, thankless and also mystified task. How do producers manage all the various costs and essentially make it all happen?

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When it comes to producing, Alex explains that it’s all about having fun and choosing a project which you are passionate about. “If you have the belief and passion there, everything else is second to that. And there’s no harm in giving something a go”. I’m surprised to learn that in addition to all the producing work Alex has done, she’s been able to hold down a full-time demanding job which she tells me is just to cover the bills.

I learn that many producing endeavours don’t have to be high risk and all-time consuming; there are producers who work on a part-time/freelance basis and it’s something you can commit as much time to as you’d like to. What’s clear is that not all producers are out there to make money. “Most of the time it is about cutting losses. But by picking something you genuinely care about, it means you should have the drive to keep going”.

I’m looking forward to seeing all Alex does in the future and I envision that it’ll be great things. In terms of the projects she’s currently working on, the FemFringe team are already planning to go to the Edinburgh Fringe again in 2019 and are working to select a new line up of acts. In addition, she’s working on a production of Franz Kafka’s ‘The Castle’. One of the barriers to performing at the Fringe is that the acts are typically required to put down a large deposit. But the team have ensured that as part of their fundraising efforts, the acts will not have to put anything towards this and they will at least have their accommodation covered.

Thanks for reading! And a huge thank you to Alex for allowing me to interviewer her. If you’d like to see more of Alex, here’s her social media links:

Instagram: @alexhackitt 
Twitter: @ahackittanwyl or @femfringe
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In the ‘Why We Tell the Story’ series, I’m looking to interview the variety of people who help make theatre magic happen. I’d love to interview a cross section of individuals from writers to musicians and casting directors. If you’d like to be part of the series or know someone who you’d like to be featured, please let me know in the comment section below! #whywetellthestory

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